If you or your family are being harassed or stalked in any way, the new ‘Protection from Harassment Act’ has just handed you a new remedy. The Act promises quick, easy and affordable protection for your rights via an application to your local magistrates court for a “protection order” requiring the harasser to stop his/her unlawful behaviour immediately.
The Act has teeth – a harasser who breaches a protection order faces immediate arrest and prosecution (with a penalty of a fine or up to 5 years’ imprisonment).
“Harassment” in this context is widely defined and can take many forms, both physical and electronic. It encompasses stalking, cyber-stalking, sexual harassment (itself widely defined), physical communication (the sending of letters or parcels etc) and electronic communication – in fact any unreasonable conduct that causes or inspires the fear of harm (mental, psychological, physical or economic). Note that the “reasonableness” or otherwise of the conduct is key here, the court being specifically required to consider whether conduct may relate to lawful pursuits like crime-fighting etc.
Cyber-stalking – no place to hide
And if you can’t identify your harasser, the police can investigate, trace and identify him/her for you. Nor can the perpetrator hide behind anonymous emails, SMSes, faxes etc – electronic communications service providers can be ordered to disclose the originator’s names, identity details and addresses.